Teenager given kidney by his mother helps surgeons reach transplant milestone
By Hilary Duncanson, Chief Reporter, Press Association Scotland
A 15-year-old boy has become the 100th child in Scotland to receive a kidney from a living donor.
Stephen Gallacher received the organ from his mother Cheryl in a transplant operation lasting just over four hours at Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Children on Wednesday.
Stephen, from Musselburgh in East Lothian, who became ill shortly after he was born, declared ahead of the procedure: “I’m grateful for this. I’ve been waiting since I was five weeks old.”
The teenager was born with a blockage between his bladder and the outside world, which caused pressure to build up and resulted in severe kidney disease. Although he had not yet needed dialysis, he has been on medication ever since the diagnosis and the illness has hampered his ability to live life to the full.
He said of the impact: “It’s been big. Like at school, at fun run, I’m most of the time at the back of the line.
“I can’t do contact (sports) like rugby and football.”
Since 2015, surgeons had been preparing to give Stephen a kidney transplant and tests were carried out on both his mother and father Tommy, 53, to determine who would make the best donor for what is known as the living related donor (LRD) procedure.
Initially it was thought that Mr Gallacher would be the donor, but tests ultimately confirmed Stephen’s mother as being the most suitable match.
Speaking shortly before he went into surgery, Stephen admitted to feeling anxious ahead of the operation but was looking forward to the positive benefits it is going to bring him.
He said: “It’s fine. They went through all of the risks and stuff but I’ll be fine. Mum will be fine. Dad will have to look after us.
“I’m going to feel much healthier, I’m going to run faster, I’ll be bigger. I’ll basically be able to do stuff I can’t do, like contact sports. I’ll be able to eat stuff I haven’t eaten before like cucumbers and tomatoes.”
He now faces a recovery time of around two weeks in hospital, before resting at home for a while.
The Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow is the only base in Scotland where paediatric kidney transplants are carried out.
The operation coincidentally sees Stephen become the 250th child in Scotland to receive a kidney transplant from any donor, living or deceased.
Mrs Gallacher has described her son, who spent most of the first year or his life in hospital as a “wee warrior”.
She said: “He’s been through a lot. He doesn’t let anything hold him back, that’s one good thing about his health problems. He just keeps going and does what he can.”
The 44-year-old said she never thought twice about giving her son one of her kidneys.
“We always knew when he was small there was a possibility as he got older he was going to need it (a transplant). When it all came to light, obviously it’s your child, you’re not going to hesitate and not get tested for it.”
She has been on a health drive to prepare her for becoming a donor, stopping smoking more than three years ago and losing weight at a boot camp.
“I’m a lot fitter than what I had been because I knew I had to do it and that was it. I’m delighted that I can do this for Stephen and hopefully make him a lot better,” she said.
“I’d be lying if I wasn’t saying I was anxious, but it’s something Stephen’s needing and obviously if I’m going to be unwell it’s a risk I’m willing to take for him. I’ll be in quite a bit of pain for the first few days at least, but I’ve just got to take it easy myself because I’ve got to get better and stronger to help Stephen recover.”
Dr Ben Reynolds, who has been overseeing the operation, said: “We’ve been doing paediatric transplants here in the Glasgow children’s hospital since 1977 and that was from a deceased donor. In that time we have now had kidney transplants put into 250 patients.
"Stephen is our 250th patient and he is receiving our 100th kidney from a live person. We’re tremendously excited to have reached this landmark.”